Thoughts on gun control

Freedom’s always have a tradeoff. American’s have decided that it’s important enough to have extremely liberal guns laws, that we as a society are willing to tolerate a fairly high level of gun violence, including shooting sprees, murders, suicides, as well as accidental deaths. This is a decision that citizens of the United States have made.

This decision that we Americans have made has consequences. Gun violence in the United States has actually increased in the last 20 years, although murder rates have declined. The reason? Modern medicine has prevented more gunshot victims from dying.

Now, it’s perfectly reasonable for us a nation to decided that we no longer like this tradeoff. In 1996 Australia decided that this tradeoff between freedom and death was imbalanced, and added substantially greater restrictions on gun ownership.

What happened next has been the subject of several academic studies. Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August, homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes. But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.

So let’s be clear. We can’t prevent crazy people from trying to kill others, but we can reduce the number of people killed by taking away firearms. The fact is that guns enable a greater death toll, and this includes suicides.

Personally, I am not at all opposed to gun ownership for hunting—but beyond that, I don’t think American’s have a good argument for needing to own firearms. To me, this means that automatic weapons and handguns have no place in our society for private citizens and firearm ownership needs to be substantially restricted to hunting rifles and shotguns with a comprehensive permitting process.